Lack of consultation on gay strategy rapped
Stormont's top department has been criticised for its failure to invest a single penny on a public discussion for a sexual orientation strategy – despite spending more than £250,000 on consultations in recent years.
The Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister has made no progress on consulting on the strategy, which aims to identify and address issues affecting the lesbian, gay and bisexual community.
The absence of any funding emerged in a response to an Assembly question from Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt.
It revealed OFMDFM has spent £258,115 on public consultations since 2007. The expenditure includes £93,185 on a much-criticised blueprint on how to develop a shared future.
Mr Nesbitt (right) said the failure to publicly consult on the sexual orientation strategy was "inexplicable".
John O'Doherty from the Rainbow Project, which works with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT), said OFMDFM had not provided any finance to the sector since the original funding was provided by direct rule ministers.
"We were promised the sexual orientation strategy by the end of 2012 and it didn't happen. We've now been promised one by the end of 2013 and we can only hope that OFMDFM plan to honour that commitment," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
Meanwhile, Mr Nesbitt said there was a perception that the LGBT community was discriminated against.
"Given that we have been waiting for six years for an updated and improved strategy and the DUP junior minister Jonathan Bell made a commitment to the Assembly that it would be published in December 2012, it is totally unacceptable that it appears no money has been spent taking this important work forward," he said.
Mr Nesbitt also questioned the rationale of spending £93,000 on the programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration.
Mr Nesbitt added: "This was deemed to be an exceptionally poor document, and yet they spent £93,000 on it.
The Belfast Telegraph contacted OFMDFM for comment but did not receive a response.
EXAMPLES OF OFMDFM'S SPENDING ON CONSULTANTS:
* 2009: &POUND;17,000 ON CONSULTATION FOR AN OLDER PEOPLE'S COMMISSIONER L 2010: &POUND;93,185 ON CONSULTATION ON THE PROGRAMME FOR COHESION, SHARING AND INTEGRATION L 2010/11: &POUND;14,772 ON CONSULTATION ON THE CHILD POVERTY STRATEGY 2010
* 2011/12: &POUND;17,930 ON PROGRAMME FOR GOVERNMENT 2011-15
* 2012: &POUND;13,384 ON CONSULTATION ON DISABILITY STRATEGY